Mercury Rising

on April 03, 1998 by Lisa Osborne
   "Mercury Rising" is a formula Bruce Willis movie, save for the fact that it has fewer corpses and explosions than a "Die Hard" script. Willis stars as Art Jeffries, a pill-popping renegade FBI agent in search of redemption. He becomes the self-appointed bodyguard to Simon (Miko Hughes), a nine-year-old autistic child whose parents have been murdered. Unable to communicate on anything more than a simple level with the outside world, Simon lives primarily in his head. He does, however, possess a highly analytical mind and a passion for puzzles. When Simon solves a puzzle and innocently cracks `Mercury,' the supposedly unbreakable code just introduced by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) to safeguard undercover agents, the action begins. Head of the NSA Lt. Colonel Nicholas Kudrow (Alec Baldwin), reluctant to admit that his Mercury code is fallible, orders Simon and his parents killed.
   "Mercury Rising" is pure escapism. The action is slow at times and the script doesn't bear much analysis--Jeffries' best friend at work is never tailed by the shadowy NSA; Simon graduates from tracing a simple maze to reading top-security code at the turn of a page; and the professional hit man thinks nothing of waving a gun around in public.
   If the film had focused more on Simon, it could have had more depth and been more interesting. Hughes as Simon does what he can with the part, but there's little to play with. If Willis and Hughes had shared center stage much as Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman did in "Rain Man," it would have been a stronger movie.    Starring Bruce Willis, Alec Baldwin, Miko Hughes, Chi McBride and Kim Dickens. Directed by Harold Becker. Written by Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal. Produced by Brian Grazer and Karen Kehela. A Universal release. Thriller. Rated R for violence and language. Running time: 111 min.
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